New York Islanders boast large contingent of European and collegiate prospects

By Kyle West
Photo: Stefan Ridderwall is among the top netminders in the SEL. (Photo courtesy of eliteprospects.com)

The Islanders have nine players in the NCAA ranks, many of whom are reaching the end of their college careers and pushing for a pro contract. Aaron Ness recently left the University of Minnesota to sign a pro contract and there are others who can’t be far behind to join him in the AHL.

In Europe, the Islanders have three prospects in Sweden, including giant goaltender Anders Nilsson who has been the leading netminder in the country, and Russian winger Kirill Petrov.

Europe

Kim Johansson, C, 23
Drafted in the 5th round, 141st overall, in 2006


One of half a dozen late round picks for the Islanders in 2006, Johansson is a strong “box player” for Malmo in the Swedish Elite League. Having attended only one Islanders prospect camp, in 2007, Johansson has shown no interest in coming over to North America and neither have the Isles shown any interest in bringing him over. The fourth line penalty kill specialist with little offensive upside is unlikely to attract much attention from NHL scouts anytime soon.


Anders Nilsson, G, 21
Drafted in the 3rd round, 62nd overall, in 2009

The starter for Lulea in the SEL, Nilsson has been outstanding all season and leads the league with the best goals against average. Yielding but a stingy 1.92 goals per game on average, the giant figure of Nilsson is an intimidating sight at 6’5. A calm and consistent keeper, Nilsson rarely has a bad game and also seems to possess the enviable trait of raising his performance in pressure situations. As good as he was in the regular season, Nilsson was even better in the playoffs, registering a 1.51 goals against average and .946 save percentage in four games. Given the revolving door in the Islanders crease this year, Nilsson must be in prime position to negotiate a contract to come over to North America.


Kirill Petrov, RW, 20
Drafted in the 3rd round, 73rd overall, in 2008

Finally getting regular ice time after being traded away from AK Bars Kazan, Petrov is making the most of his move to Khanty-Mansiysk Yugra. In 47 games the 6’3 winger has eight goals and eleven assists while taking a regular shift on the third line. Frustrated with his lack of playing time in previous seasons, Petrov’s success is a double-edged sword for the Isles. While he is developing confidence as a regular player, his motivation for coming to North America lessens while he enjoys his hockey in the KHL. His combination of size and speed would make him an impact player for the Islanders when he does arrive, negotiations to bring him over will no doubt intensify this summer.

Stefan Ridderwall, G, 23
Drafted in the 6th round, 173rd overall, in 2006

A stalwart for Djurgarden, the same club where his father Rolf was the goalie for 12 years, Stefan Ridderwall is a very good keeper who’s roots to his club are too strong to allow him to leave for North America. Honorably upholding a family tradition, Ridderwall goalkeepers are a Djurgarden constant.


NCAA

Brian Day. RW, 22
Drafted in the 6th round, 171st overall, in 2006

Now finishing up his senior year at Colgate University, Day has been a leading offensive force for the Red Raiders for the past four years, scoring a career high 21 goals in 34 games as a junior. An unranked Boston high-schooler in his draft year, Day was recovering from a football injury when the Islanders called his name in the 6th round. Now heading to Atlantic City for the ECAC Final Four, Day will be counted on for leadership and goal-scoring.


Matt Donovan, D, 20
Drafted in the 4th round, 96th overall, in 2008

A strong sophomore season has increased speculation that the swift puck-mover will sign a pro contract with the Islanders as soon as his season with the University of Denver Pioneers wraps up. The second seeded team in the WCHA, Denver are slated to play giant killers Bemidji State, ranked number 10, in the semi-finals. Donovan has scored eight goals and laid on 20 helpers in 38 games this season and his smooth-skating stride and ability to bring the puck to the forwards has the Islanders very excited about his potential.


Jason Gregoire, LW, 23
Drafted in the 3rd round, 76th overall, in 2007

Coming off his best season ever despite battling injury, Gregoire has 24 goals in 32 games for the top ranked Sioux. Likely to meet his training camp co-participant Matt Donovan in the WCHA final, Gregoire has continued to impress with his strong skating and quick shot. The 5’11 winger from Winnipeg plays a fearless committed style that may contribute to his injury history, however he is unlikely to shy away from driving the net in search of goals anytime soon.


Blake Kessel, D, 22
Drafted in the 6th round, 166th overall, in 2007

Tailing off in his production, Kessel followed up a remarkable sophomore season of 10 goals and 38 points in 38 games with a junior year of five goals and 26 points. A skillset that includes a laser shot and quick feet, Kessel’s arsenal of offensive weapons are impressive. As he continues his development, positioning in his own end will be under increasing scrutiny. With an NHL ready frame of 6’2 and 210 lbs, Kessel may be best served by turning pro as soon as possible. Slated to play Merrimack in the semi-finals of the HE playoffs, the 2nd ranked Wildcats will be in tough to make the finals.


Brock Nelson, C, 18
Drafted in the 1st round, 30th overall, in 2010

The freshman has produced only modest numbers but flashes of his skill and strength have become more common as the season has progressed. Playing on a very strong University of North Dakota side, Nelson has been behind seniors Brett Hextall and Brad Malone and sophomore sensation Corban Knight for ice time yet still managed seven goals and 19 points in 38 games, eclipsing the scoring pace of Knight as a freshman. Standing at 6’3 and very strong on faceoffs, Nelson has time to grow into his frame and allow his game to develop at a modest pace.


Aaron Ness, D, 20
Drafted in the 2nd round, 40th overall, in 2008

Recently signed to a pro contract, Ness will be airlifted into the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to help strengthen their blueline immediately. Three disappointing seasons at the University of Minnesota have seen the slick-skating blueliner drop off the Islanders prospect chart after being a high-profile pick in the 2nd round in 2008. Standing just 5’10 and weighing only 170 lbs, Ness relies on quickness and agility to avoid traffic and move the puck to the forwards. With the Golden Gophers mired in a run of mediocrity for the past few years, prospects have been leaving the program early in greater numbers and Ness may find his move to the pros beneficial for his development.


Cody Rosen, G, 20
Drafted in the 7th round, 185th overall, in 2010

Showing signs of promise in limited viewings, Rosen has played only three games this season for Clarkson University yet posted a 1.94 goals against average and .940 Save percentage. A former Kingston Voyageur, Rosen will hope to get more action in coming years.


Shane Sims, D, 21
Drafted in the 5th round, 126th overall in 2006

A steady player on the Ohio State blueline, Sims wrapped up his senior year with the Buckeyes in disappointing fashion, losing to Lake Superior State in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. The Buckeyes leading scorer from the point for the past four years, Sims added three goals and 19 points in 37 games this season, a three year low for him in a season where he was playing for a contract.


Corey Trivino, C, 21
Drafted in the 2nd round, 36th overall in 2008

One of the most improved players in the Islanders prospect pool, Trivino has taken on more responsibility and added weight to a thin frame in his junior year with Boston University. Moved back to the center from the wing, “Vino” has been one of the Terriers top playmakers with 20 assists in 37 games. Now standing at 6’1 and weighing 180 lbs, Trivino has renewed confidence and strength and is a key player for a strong team.

Anders Lee, C/W, 20
Drafted in the 6th round, 152nd overall in 2009

The former football star was recovering from a knee injury when the Islanders snagged him in the sixth round of the ’09 draft. After a dominating freshman year with Notre Dame, a lot of scouts are ruing the decision to pass on Lee. Scoring 22 goals in 41 games, he has proven to possess a nice pair of hands and some finesse to go with that “linebacker on skates” physique. The Fighting Irish are the 11th seed heading into the NCAA finals and will face Merrimack, the 6th seeed.